4 Conditions for Better Sleep

Recently I was sharing with a client how one of the most important factors related to how quickly and how much weight someone loses is not their training program. It isn’t the sets and the reps. Or the frequency or duration. Or even the type of activity.

And I’m not specifically referring to their nutrition. It isn’t the ratio of macro-nutrients. Or the total energy consumed. Or the timing of the meals. Or whether they fasted or not.

Sure all these matter and play a role in a weight loss strategy. But these efforts can all be wasted if there isn’t one key component of a healthy lifestyle already in place.

And this key component is sleep.

I’m not going to go into detail in this blog about the impact of sleep and fat loss. If you would like to know more, and are interested in which hormones are involved in sleep and fat loss then make sure to comment below and I’ll see you the report.

But for now let’s focus on getting the best sleep possible. And to do this I’ve broken this up into four categories which are routine, technology, journal and nutrition. Below is a little more detail on each.

Condition #1 for Better Sleep – Routine

In order to get the best sleep you need to establish a sleep routine. For here the analogy to use is putting a baby to sleep.

If you do the same things in the same order each day at the same time before bed a baby will not only know to expect sleep is coming but will actually look forward to sleep. Change the order of the things you do and the baby may not sleep. Do these things at a different time and the baby may not sleep. Change the types of things you do before bed and the baby may not sleep.

So the take home message is you are a big baby and need a bedtime routine.

Now think of all the factors that can influence whether you sleep or not including:
* time for bed
* meal before bed
* type and volume of drink before bed
* darkness of the room
* coolness of the room
* quietness of the room
* activities before bed
* comfortableness of the bed

And there are many more bedtime conditions we could add to this list. And this doesn’t even begin to look at any of the things going on between your ears before bed.

If you are still stuck about how this all works get yourself a baby and practice for a couple of months and you’ll see the value of establishing a bedtime routine.

Condition #2 for Better Sleep – Technology

The problem with technological devices is that they emit light and engage our minds. The light tricks our brains into thinking we are out in the sun and still have work to do. As a result there is a delay in secreting the sleep hormone melatonin.

Before all of the e-readers we would have read something fun that wasn’t backlit and therefore disrupted the sleep response. In addition to the reading from an iPad the same applies to working at any work station or sitting in front of the TV.

Since the time response for our brains to detect a lower amount of light and begin the process of secreting melatonin in not instantaneous we should anticipate this delay and begin limiting our exposure to light by dimming the lights ahead of our anticipated sleep time.

I won’t get into too much other detail regarding technology and sleep other than to say ditch the alarm if you can. The more consistent your sleep becomes you’ll soon get to the point where you’ll wake up without alarm. Alternatively you could use a Sleeptracker watch which wakes you at your most awake point in the sleep cycle. I’ve heard there is an app for your phone for this but I’m not sure if sleeping with your phone under your pillow is your best option.

In the meantime unplug as much as possible and dim the lights a little bit earlier than normal.

Condition #3 for Better Sleep – Journal

When it comes to training the best results come to those that write down everything they do in the gym. And the same goes with nutrition. I mean how else can you measure success or not if you don’t know all the steps you took?

The same applies to your sleep.

What was the temperature of the room when you had your best night’s sleep? What did you eat and drink before bed? What did you do before bed? What time did you go to bed? And when did you wake up? Were you up during the night? And did you wake up to an alarm or on your own?

And since there is just as much value to the factors to that didn’t contribute to optimal sleep we want to know the answers to the above when you didn’t sleep well.

Pretty soon you’ll know the exact conditions to replicate for the best night’s sleep.

But besides journalling the sleep conditions there is another task that involves journalling. And it’s called a brain dump.

Have you ever gone to sleep with a number of things running through your head? And you end up not sleeping because you try to resolve these during the night?

If this happens to you than you should try a brain dump which involves writing down everything that is going on in your head before you go to sleep. Maybe you’re thinking about an upcoming trip. And booking flights, renewing your passport, arranging for time off work, a kennel for the pet and to cancel the newspaper subscription…

It’s easy to see how all these details may keep you up at night. A brain dump will help you release these tasks before bed and allow you to drift off. Another suggested benefit is the subconscious may help to resolve some of your tasks during your sleep and present solutions to you upon waking.

Condition #4 for Better Sleep – Nutrition

We all know that caffeine and alcohol will disrupt sleep. But what about high calorie meals? Or meals that are high in carbohydrates? Or that are high on the glycemic index?

Think of everything you eat as sending a message to your brain regarding whether you are about to sleep or work? If carbohydrates are fuel source maybe a high carbohydrate meal before bed isn’t the best option.

And be careful of the caffeine free diet sodas which stimulate the part of the brain which craves sugar. So even though you won’t be getting many carbs or caffeine from the soda you may just stay up a little later or delay sleep by the chips that went along with it.

If you are starving before bed look to have a small snack of protein and fat with minimal carbohydrate. And the carbohydrate should be low to medium on the glycemic index.

Going forward pick the one strategy above that you think will be the easiest for you to commit for the next couple of weeks. After that work on the next easiest and so forth until you have achieved control over all areas that may influence your sleep.

All the best,

Chris

 

5 ways to More Efficient Workouts – And Better Results!

Who doesn’t want better results? It doesn’t matter whether this relates to business, finances, education, fitness or anything else. We all like to experience improvement.

But you know what’s better than improved results? Better results in less time.

The Good & the Bad of the 4 Hour Body

A while back I told you some of the books I was reading. And I asked for your favourite reads as well.

A few of you recommended the 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss.

And so I picked up a copy. Actually my wife got me a copy for Valentine’s Day. If I weren’t in this profession I might be skeptical as to her motives by getting me this book. But since she knew I had already been checking it out it was a safe bet.

Anyways back to the book.

Are you familiar with the author Tim Ferriss? He wrote the NY Times Best Seller The 4 Hour Work Week. In it he provides some very interesting strategies to become more efficient in your career and thus have more time for whatever it is you enjoy doing.

And with his latest work he shows you how he changed his body, for the better, with only 4 hours of training time. Per month.

Big deal you might be thinking. ‘I know lots of people who spend 0 hours per month training’.

The difference is the results he achieves in this minimal investment in time.

What kind of results?

He adds 34 pounds of muscle to his body in one month. He goes from running 5 k to 50 k in twelve weeks. He increases his lifts 150 lbs.

And he does this all while decreasing his bodyfat, improving his lipid profile, eating bear claws and croissants and drinking red wine.

Ok now we’re talking! Incredible gains. Minimal time investment. And you get to eat your favourite cheat foods!

How does he do it?

Well you’ll have to read the book to find out.

But what I do want to tell you about The 4 Hour Body are some of the good and bad things he covers. And by bad I simply mean I wouldn’t recommend you follow his advice.

Since everyone, including Tim I’m sure, enjoys getting the good news first let’s start with the parts of The 4 Hour Body I thought were good.

Good Point #1 – Distinguish between exercise and recreation

Ferriss does a great job early on to make sure we understand there is a difference between exercising and doing something for recreation. When we lays out the training plan this is intended to be exercise. It should be intense, planned, recorded, purposeful and short in duration.

Recreation on the other hand is everything else. This may include going for a walk or a bike ride, playing a round of golf or doing yoga or Pilates. He isn’t saying there aren’t health benefits to these activities but that you can’t expect the results he describes if all you are doing is recreational activities.

Good Point #2 – Use of Metrics

Ferriss mentions how he has recorded every workout he has done for the past 10 years or more. He uses glucose monitors to check his blood sugar. He owns or has tried every form of body fat testing. He carries around his own food scale.

To say the guy has some raw data would be an understatement. The more familiar you are with your numbers the better results you will get.

Good Point #3 – Emphasis on Rest & Recovery

Not only does he suggest you train only 4 hours per month he advocates long rest breaks between sets. We might think that if we’re only training 4 hours in a month than the training time must be non-stop with no chance to catch your breath. Instead he insists you rest between sets. As well as you get further into the program he recommends increasing the number of days between workouts.

Good Point #4 – Use of Spices & Flavourings

What is a common complaint of those who start a nutritional plan without all the refined sugar and processed foods they were familiar with? The say there is no flavours.

Ferriss does a great job of showing ways to make food more flavourful and interesting by incorporating a few key spices and ingredients into the mix. But this guy is all about results so you know he is suggesting ways to increasing your insulin sensitivity by adding a particular spice to your morning coffee.

Good Point #5 – MED

This stands for minimum essential dose and is probably the greatest strength of the book. Ferris uses a great analogy where he states that it takes 100 degrees Fahrenheit to boil water. Anything above 101 is wasted energy that could have been used for other purposes.

He uses the same thought process with his training. He seeks out to find the minimal investment to yield the maximum result.

If you remember reading the interview I did with Dan John a while back he spoke of seeking out the minimum as well. It looks like there maybe something to this.

If we are truly seeking results than does going longer yield a better result? What about more frequent? If not then why are we doing longer, more frequent workouts?

Stay tuned for Part II where it get into the parts of the 4 Hour Body that weren’t as good.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                      okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

For Fitness & Performance Goals Avoid the Peaks and Valleys

Hi there: If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time you’re aware that I’m all about providing you with the best return on investment. I want you to realize the best results with minimal investment in time, finances, sweat or any other sacrifice you may have to make. But this isn’t about seeking out the ‘magic bullet’ so no hard work has to be done ever again. Instead it’s about finding ways to get in sync with your body and its environment so every effort results in forward momentum.

And along the lines of forward effort and forward momentum there are times when we may slip back slightly. Think of the progress you make as the peaks you climb and the setbacks as being the valleys you fall into.

Now here’s the trick.

You don’t want your peaks to be too steep or your valleys too low. Notice I referred to the peaks in terms of steepness rather than height. I’ll explain more about why height may be more crucial than steepness in a moment. But first consider the following.

If you think of the expressions we have for when things are working well for us we refer to ‘smooth sailing’ or ‘everything is on track’. On the other hand when we are having troubles we consider this a ‘shipwreck’ or ‘off the tracks’.

Let’s look at how your rest, nutrition and training apply to the concept of peaks and valleys.

Rest – We know that the body needs around 8 hours of sleep a night. And if we deviate up or down from this number significantly we run into problems. For example we can’t stay in bed for days on end to make up a sleep debt. And we can’t get by with 5 hours a night thinking we’re fine. We need to be consistent with our rest and get 8 hours each and every night.

Nutrition – We know the body requires a certain amount of calories to function. And we create problems when we try and go without the required energy or try and supply it all at once. Small, frequent meals spread evenly throughout the day is the only option.

Training – The body will respond to physical stimuli. Too much stimuli and the body responds accordingly with stiffness, soreness and restricted movement. Too little or infrequent stimuli and the body loses some of its abilities i.e. strength, power, fitness.

With everything we do we need to understand what is the threshold for our bodies. Mine might be a little different from yours.

I know I need 8 hours a sleep a night. And my sleep quality is better the more hours I get before midnight.

My body burns upwards of 4000 calories a day so I know what I need to supply it with calorie-wise to meet my goals.

And I know what type, frequency and intensityof training works best for my body.

Once you know the thresholds for your body you will be able to realize the best results minimal efforts. You will be able to flatten out the mountain and valleys and have smooth sailing towards your health, fitness and performance goals.

Sometimes we end up in a valley and forward progress is delayed.  What are your valleys? And what causes you to fall into them? Tell me and I’ll provide solutions to them in a future post.

Your coach,

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                             okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Hi there: Hope you had  a great week. As the weekend approaches for many this equates to some down time and relaxation. And this is vital for optimal health and performance. We can’t be at our best if we don’t allow our bodies to rest and recover every now and again.

So with this in mind I wanted to pass along one of my favourite ways to recover in between training sessions. I’m talking about massage therapy. But rather than have me attempt to pass along all the benefits I thought I’d get a registered massage therapist (RMT) to fill you. So I’ll let Tanya Gervais of Lotus Massage take it from here. For those interested in a massage make sure to read to the bottom for a special offer Tanya is extending only to the readers of this blog.

What are the benefits of massage therapy?

The easy answer is for me to blurt out everything that I learned in school; however, the other answer is to reply that this is a heavily loaded question. 

There are a multitude of different conditions that massage therapy can provide treatment for.  Massage therapy isn’t just about getting a good (and I’m cringing as I say this) rub down; there are specific treatment protocols for specific injuries and conditions; e.g. tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, frozen shoulder, and sprains. For other conditions that are more related to pain syndromes as a result of repetitive movements and or occupational postures, education, prevention and a maintenance program play an important role in a successful treatment plan.

How to Assess Tissue Health

There are many factors involved when assessing tissue health. Muscle tension may be due to repetitive movements from work, play or hobbies that apply stress and strain to the body. Sports injuries and car accidents can create trauma to the tissues and affect the general health of muscles, ligaments and joints.

When you are injured or if you are feeling discomfort in your body, receiving massage therapy treatments can help to eliminate pain, and restore health to the tissues. I believe it’s important to work directly with the muscles, ligaments, bones and joints, as all of these areas are compromised with an injury. I feel it is important to assess and treat all the components to ensure a well-rounded treatment and to get the desired results – clients achieving optimal health in their bodies. I cannot stress enough, the importance of committing to a maintenance program to help clients achieve this goal.   

Setting up a Plan

Working with patients to create a specific treatment plan involves communication and education between patient and therapist. When providing a successful treatment plan we want to find out what factors are contributing to their symptoms, educate on predisposing factors (things that could be contributing to the pain or dysfunction), look at how the work environment is set up (ergonomics), and provide awareness to patients on repetitive movements and how this can affect the body negatively. A successful treatment plan includes spending some time on stretches and strengthening exercises that can aid in the recovery process.

 A maintenance program is different for each individual depending on his or her needs. Treatments can start out a little more frequent in the beginning and then taper off as the client starts to feel better and their tissue health increases. Usually we work on getting the client in just before they start to feel their ailments creeping back. This is usually once a month or less.

Receiving regular massage will provide clients with education and help keep tissues healthy, which can prevent injuries and therefore decrease their discomforts. It is also a great way to decrease stress, headaches and promote relaxation.

The reason I think it was a loaded question, is as with most things there is no easy answer to having optimal health. For the most part I believe this to be true with massage therapy too. To have optimal health we must take ownership in how our bodies got into the ‘state’ they are presenting.  Working together as a patient/therapist team gives us the grounds for a solid and well-rounded treatment.

About Tanya

Graduated and registered as a BC massage therapist in 2005, I have built a massage therapy practice in Kelowna during the last 5 years. My practice is very diverse; I love working in all areas. Pregnancy, headaches, repetitive stains and stresses from occupational demands, whiplash and neck/shoulder/low back pain are some of the major areas that I treat for. I also love working with athletes and sports injuries.

I continue to advance my skills in specific areas of body. I am currently half way through a two year, 7-part course based on craniosacral, myofascial and osteopathic treatment techniques.

Special Offer

Receive 20% off a massage treatment by simply mentioning this article.

Tanya Gervais, RMT

Lotus Massage Therapy, Kelowna, BC

www.lotusmassage.ca

Chris here again.

Thanks Tanya for giving us some insight into why massage theapy is so important and how we can incorporate into our daily routine for improved health and performance. Make sure to contact her today to take advantage of this limited special offer.

All the best,

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                   okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

How the Price is Right helps your training

Hey there: It’s Hallowe’en weekend and in the past I’ve given you some strategies as the ‘best’ treats to eat this weekend. Or I’ve given you extra workouts to do before heading out for a night of partying but today I have something different in store for you. But before I get to today’s tip I want to let you in a little experiment I’m running.

The experiment is the Collins Health Project. What this involves is a behind the scenes look at the healhy and not so healthy things I do. Yeah I admit it. Every now and again I like to enjoy a beer, some pizza and maybe even some ice cream. But I have a standard to maintain, as do the rest of you. And of the best ways to make ourselves accountable is to let others what we are doing. They will support us and give us a pat on the back. And at the same time they will let us know when something is out of character given what out stated goals are.

So with that in mind I’m going to video portions of my workout? I’m going show what I’m eating, how much and how often. You’ll get to see what I do to relax during my down time. This will serve two purposes which are to help me get in the best shape of my life and secondly to help you steal some ideas that may help you as well.

Stay tuned because some of the first footage you’ll see from this Hallowe’en weekend will be unique but hopefully serve as a great launching pad for the rest of the project. Now on to the tip.

Did you ever watch the Price is Right? I remember watching this a kid when we would visit our grandparents in Edmonton. And besides all the crazies who dress up for the show (sorry if you’re one of those crazies) but the games were really well branded and memorable.

I remember one game in particular where you had to guess the price of the prize. And there was a band that represented an upper and lower limit for the price. When they lit up your price behind the band you saw if it fell within the range of the band.

So how does this related to your training? Well think about the upper limit as the intensity, duration, frequency and type of your training. And the lower limit represents your rest, regeneration, tissue quality and nutrition. The two ends of the range are always connected. As the upper end of the slide rises the lower end gets pulled along.

But what most people do is start up with a training program and don’t put as much effort towards the lower end (the rest, recovery, tissue quality and nutrition). So this begins to put strain on the body.

With this strain there are a number of outcomes including fatigue, over-reaching, over-training and potential injury. Things that nobody wants.

So remember as you carry on with your training to think of the Price is Right game. As you are going to push harder and step up your workouts you need to make sure you are putting equal attention, if not more, to the other end of the spectrum.

Here’s the other cool thing. When you take some active rest and aren’t trying to extend the upper end of the range, continue to put as much emphasis on your nutrition and rest. This will allow your body to ‘catch its breath’ and optimize its potential. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever lost weight and looked your best while on vacation. You’ve minimized the stressors on the body and allowed the balance to swing in favour of ‘rest and digest’.

Have a safe and fun Hallowe’en. For anyone joining us for stairs tomorrow I may be dressed a little differently. (pics to follow)

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

One of the best training experiences I’ve ever had

Hey there: This past spring I was contacted regarding training a few Special Olympics athletes. Richard, Glen and Andrew compete in track in field and were looking for some help in getting ready for the Nationals in July. So I agreed to do my best to help these guys out. What a great experience it was.

At the very first meeting we sat down and discussed their goals, training history, previous injuries, rest habits and anything else relevant to realizing success in track and field. And I was really impressed how much focus these guys had. They were dedicated to their training. They avoided empty calories and made sure to get at least hours of sleep a night. If I remember correctly Andrew told me he really likes having stir-frys for dinner. Unless there’s pizza!

And so we got started. I didn’t realize their level of dedication until one day Richard was quoting one of my more recent emails that you all receive. It didn’t make sense how accurate he was it being able to recall the content until I realized he was printing them all off and collecting them in a binder. He would bring the binder to our training sessions and then share them with others.

Lastly I’ll remember Glen for going for runs into between our training sessions. Even if his training partners were busy he’d still be out there putting in his mileage then come inside the gym for a workout. Although I seem to recall him teasing me about how poorly Italy did in the World Cup.

Recently one of these guys received a very admirable acknowledgement. Richard was named Special Olympics Canada’s male athlete of the year. While Richard will be receiving the award all there of these guys are deserving. And knowing Andrew and Glen they are proudly just as proud of their buddy for winning as if they had themselves.

Below is a recent article describing Richard’s award. Congratulations.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                      onsidehockeytraining.com

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Richard Gillis

Kelowna’s Richard Gillis has been named Special Olympics Canada’s male athlete of the year for 2010.

Gillis will fly to Toronto in November for the official presentation ceremony.

The national award comes on the heels of another honour for the local athlete.

Gillis was also recently named the recipient of Special Olympics B.C.’s Athletic Achievement award. It is presented annually to the athlete in B.C. who has demonstrated outstanding athletic skills and is a role model for other Special Olympics athletes. 

Gillis has been a Special Olympian for 18 years, consistently competing at a high performance level.

He has been a member of Special Olympics teams on several occasions and has competed at both the summer and winter national games.

Gillis most recently won a silver medal in pentathlon at the 2010 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games.

There are currently 3,500 athletes participating in Special Olympics B.C